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Providence DSA stands with protesters and calls for defunding police

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Police are attacking, arresting, and pepper spraying protestors, journalists, and legal observers! Providence DSA unequivocally stands with protestors to demand the release of those in custody and the defunding of out-of-control cops.


On Sunday, October 18, 2020, a Providence Police cruiser (allegedly) struck a 24-year-old man, Jhamal Gonsalves, throwing him from his moped and putting him into a coma. Since then, two nights of outraged protest have been violently repressed by police mobs.

Tuesday night, Gonsalves’ cousin was put in critical condition by cops with pepper spray. For those counting, this is now two members of the Gonsalves family fighting for their lives in Rhode Island Hospital. Cops arrested twenty-one protestors, including a Providence DSA member, and held them on bail – a racist, authoritarian practice meant to restrict and economically drain dissidents.

Wednesday night, cops stormed lines of protestors on the Providence-Cranston border, attacking everyone in sight (including themselves) with pepper spray. They brutalized and arrested protestors, reporters, and legal observers. This is not a “restrained” response by a state run by the people – this is a Democrat-held, deep-blue state using authoritarian police to smother legitimate dissent.

Providence DSA stands with protestors in demanding the release of those in custody, apprehension of criminal cops, external investigation of police brutality, and reparations to the victims’ families.

We also demand that mainstream news outlets like the Boston Globe and the Providence Journal stop covering these events as if protestor “violence” is somehow equal to or worse than police aggression. A Providence Journal reporter was threatened on Wednesday by police batons for simply taking a photograph – this was not covered in the reporter’s article. Our mainstream press needs to cover police brutality and the power relationship between cops and the people.



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This is all part of a pattern of the police’s disregard for public safety in Providence and throughout the country. Aggression, intimidation, and over-policing define the state’s behavior towards the public. Since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, members of Providence DSA have joined millions of protestors nationwide in outrage to demand real, lasting change.

Police response has been instigation, arrests, and contempt. Rhode Island must drastically change its priorities. We can start by cutting back on the authoritarian police force that so often terrorizes poor, Black, and immigrant communities. Providence DSA renews its demands to:

  • Cut police funding in state and city budgets. The Rhode Island state budget allocates $35 million for a new police barracks at a time when the government is attempting to cut essential health and welfare services to fix the deficit. This is unacceptable.
  • Stop taking money from police unions. Elected leaders in Rhode Island should follow the example of the New York lawmakers who have pledged to give away all the money they’ve received from the police, and refuse to take any money in the future.  
  • Expel police unions from the AFL-CIO. It’s a stain on the honor of organized labor that police unions, which consistently protect abusive cops, are still permitted inside the AFL-CIO. We agree with UAW Local 2865 in California, who recently demanded that these unions be expelled from the labor movement. Unions should follow the example of the bus drivers in Minneapolis who refused to help police transport arrested protesters.
  • Remove cops from our schools. Minneapolis Public Schools are considering canceling all contracts with police departments. The ACLU of Rhode Island has two active lawsuits related to assaults by “school resource officers.” We support the resolution put forward by Providence City Council members Rachel Miller and Nirva LaFortune to remove these police from schools.

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ProvDSA is a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics. At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end. As we are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people, such as stopping utility shutoffs and implementing a Percentage Income Payment Plan. Our vision is of a society in which people have a real voice in the choices and relationships that affect the entirety of our lives. We call this vision democratic socialism — a vision of a more free, democratic and humane society.

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